Nana Tamakloe was living in London, watching the music industry he was working in decline as the download culture took hold.
It was 2006 and the Ghanaian entrepreneur had spent his 20s studying and living in the UK. As he watched the music industry rapidly change, wondering what to do next, he was asked to help scout girls for someone wanting to start a modelling agency.
He scoured the streets of London, found girls who were keen to give modelling a go, and convinced them to join the agency. However, after all Tamakloe's work, the founder of it went cold on the idea. Tamakloe was fielding calls from the girls he had worked so hard to convince to sign, so decided to take them on himself.
“I knew nothing about fashion, I knew nothing about models but something just told me this could be something for you, so I started to get into fashion through modelling.”
His London-based agency grew quickly in the late 2000s, starting out with just black models who worked high profile events like the London Fashion Week.
“For some time, we had black fashion models that most of the major agencies were trying to poach off us. They couldn't find them because they wouldn't be in the neighbourhoods they would be seen at or the events or clubs or the carnival.”
The 'Obama effect'
Tamakloe, now 34, started questioning why he only worked with black models around the year 2008.
“I think it was the Obama effect. I started telling myself if Obama can run for president why do good black models have to be represented on a 'black agency,' 'why do I have to be a black agency?' I said they can be on any agency that has all models represented, so we extended it to include European and Asian models.”
He found them a lot of work early on, clients were pleased with the standards of his agency, he found with the major model agencies in the UK at the time no one was taking black models seriously.
“It was almost like 'let's just have them so people stop troubling us'. They didn't have any particular standards. It was more like 'okay if we have booked five white models let's have the token black girl to make the campaign look good'. With us they could see certain quality and certain standards.”
However, in 2011 recession hit the UK and his agency suffered. Craving the heat and comfort of home, Tamakloe packed his bags, got his models signed to other agencies then headed south.
Initially, he had a beauty pageant he wanted to focus on - Miss West Africa.
At this point he had had enough of model management. It was hard to deal with young girls who might not be so business-minded, and there were always issues of models being poached by other agencies, or clients not paying or respecting a code of business.
Despite this, he started managing models in Ghana, but was soon faced with a fashion industry that was not making money.
Turning this around became his next task. It started with a Facebook group, then grew into the online fashion magazine and e-commerce site, fashionghana.com.
He wanted the website to connect local designer with international buyers – and back in 2012 when it launched, there were very few designers in Ghana selling online.
However, convincing designers to sell their goods through the site proved almost impossible.
While he was trying to get products online to sell, he started blogging and creating a fashion directory for the continent.
While designers weren't interested in his offer to sell their goods online, roadside tailors were.
“They didn't care what you did online as long as you gave them the money when it sold.”
While it was a ploy to get the designers on site, the roadside clothes sold extremely well, often for four times more than what they would sell for in Ghana.
He started stocking more of their clothes and commissioning tailors to make designs to sell on site.
Since then the website and social media following has grown rapidly. On Facebook he has 1.1 million likes – all organic.
He still wants to push designers' clothing, and so this year launched the first Accra Fashion Week which has helped to build a relationship with the designers. More designer clothes will be on the website soon, he said.
Aside from getting their designs on his site, the aim of his fashion week was to connect designers with boutiques so their goods were sold locally, instead of boutiques just relying on imported clothing.
Pushing the local industry
Seeing the popularity of his site explode, and the success of his first Accra Fashion Week, Tamakloe believes the future is bright for the African fashion industry, predicting it could become a trillion dollar industry.
“Even if it doesn't reach there, just our own markets in our own countries can sustain a lot of jobs.”
“I think the fashion industry in Ghana is very healthy. I think it only sees a bright future – I was inspired by what I saw at Accra Fashion Week compared to other fashion weeks across the continent.”
Ghanaian designers were thinking high fashion and editorial, while ensuring to incorporate local culture into pieces, he said.
But this is not getting the credit it deserves in terms of sales and acknowledgement and promotion, he believed.
“We just need to connect the boutiques to the designers then we will see the industry grow really rapidly.”